The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) POLAR STAR (WAGB-10) will make a port call in Wellington later this week. The United States has been granted New Zealand’s permission for the POLAR STAR to visit after completing its seasonal operations in support of the National Science Foundation-managed U.S. Antarctic Program.
Each year the USCGC POLAR STAR breaks a channel through the sea ice of McMurdo Sound to allow a cargo ship and fuel tanker to resupply the scientific programs on the ice. The icebreaker then escorts these ships safely in and out of the area.
This annual resupply allows for year-round scientific activities in Antarctica and is critical to the operation of New Zealand’s Scott Base and the U.S. base, McMurdo Station. In turn, McMurdo Station serves as a logistics hub for various field camps and for Amundsen-Scott South Pole Stations (800 miles or approximately 1,300 kilometers inland from McMurdo).
This is the fifth visit of a U.S. Government ship since 2016:
- The USS SAMPSON visited in November 2016 to mark the 75th anniversary of the Royal New Zealand Navy;
- The USCGC POLAR STAR called in to Lyttelton in February of 2017 on its return from Antarctica,
- The USCGC POLAR STAR returned to Lyttelton in January of 2018;
- The USCGC POLAR STAR called in Wellington in February of 2019 and;
- The USCGC POLAR STAR will visit Wellington again this week.
As well as resupplying and refueling in Wellington, the icebreaker will host school groups while in port.
Ambassador Brown says the possibility of any future U.S. ship visits to New Zealand would continue to be considered on a case-by-case basis by the two countries.
“We’re delighted to have the United States Coast Guard back in town. POLAR STAR’s visits to New Zealand make so much sense and are becoming a regular fixture. I can’t think of a better demonstration of U.S.-New Zealand cooperation than the POLAR STAR sailing from Antarctica, where we are close partners and neighbors on the Ice, to a New Zealand harbor,” he says.